How Many Turkish Cops Does It Take To Guard 18 Pacifists?

Apparently the preferred ratio is 3 to 1.

We were lined up in the foyer of the courthouse in a very specific order, and my lady-cop babysitter was momentarily flustered about whether she should be on the right or the left of me. We were marched, wedding procession or graduation wise, through the halls, three paces exactly apart, at a stately gait, then unceremoniously crammed into elevators.

When we reached the appropriate floor, I was separated from the crew, and my lawyer and my lady cop and I were taken to an office where I gave my official statement. In my official statement, at the urging of my lawyer, I testified that I had no idea what the protests were about, I was just walking home, got confused by the gas, and stopped to ask what was happening. I am not proud of this. It makes me feel a little dirty. They google mapped my address, and where I’d been picked up to confirm that this was true, and the lawyer decided I was innocent and that I shouldn’t be prosecuted. I signed a million pieces of paper that I couldn’t read, which were all in Turkish. I later found out that they left out the important part, about the police following us into the private apartment building. My lawyer assured me it wasn’t important, but I feel that it is.

Then the terrible part began. We were all marched to a waiting area, full of those waiting area chairs which are connected in threes and fours. We were all sat with a cop between us, and more black shirt cops (black shirts are the worst) pulled chairs to form a square of police around us. They sat at attention for perhaps an hour and then got bored and all wandered away. My lawyer was not allowed to talk to me without express permission from the police.

At some point we were all given water, which I badly needed at that point, and a tost. We sat there for five or six hours. It was awful, not knowing what the eff was going on, and being really, really sleepy, and wearing filthy clothes and stewing in my own filth. They took a few guys aside- one guy had been caught with a small amount of weed on him, my buddy Mert, worse, had been caught with a gas mask. Five boys in total were facing jail time.

“If you go to jail tonight, how long do you think you’ll be there?”

“I have a friend who’s been waiting for his trial for a year.”


He stopped talking to me long enough to talk to his sister on the phone- he requested Shakespeare and Dostoevsy should he be incarcerated that night.

“You know, I have a pal who’s father in law has been in jail awaiting trial for four years.”


“He’s Kurdish.”

“Politically active?”

“Not PKK, I don’t believe, but active enough. And then, he’s an academic and an intellectual.”

“Ahhh. That’s enough.”

“Yep. That story is why I became politically active here.”

We chatted more about the protests, about the shame of them becoming more violent, about rock throwers, about the black shirt cops and how different they are from the blue shirt cops while we waited for his trial.

“Let’s talk of something cheerful,” I said, finally. “Where do you like to go on holiday?”

He was taken into the courtyard shortly after. His trial probably lasted only 45 minutes, but it seemed like forever. I talked to Boru in the meantime.

“My parents don’t know I’m here. They would be so upset, if they knew what was happening. They were both tortured in the coup in the 80’s, and my mother was raped.”

“Jesus. I’m so sorry.”

“If they knew I was protesting, they would go crazy.”

“You are the classic Child of the ’80’s.”


“Well, hopefully they’ll never have to know.”

“I don’t even live on the Asian side. It was my first time in Kadiköy.”

“Well, Hoş Geldiniz!”


We debated for a bit whether Kadiköy protests were worse than Gezi protests, and came to no conclusions.

Mert was eventually freed- his trial is pending but he won’t be detained while he waits. He was ecstatic. He had to leave almost immediately.

What followed was a long slow process of all the boys being taken into the courtroom for trial. I had no access to my lawyer. I had no idea what was going on. My lady cop was reading a novel at this point. I slept a bit.

Finally I was called to the courtroom, which was extraordinarily confusing, as I thought I wasn’t being prosecuted after signing all those baffling papers. Walking in, I didn’t even know where to sit or stand. I had an official court translator who spoke intermediate English, but was fluent in Arabic and Ottoman Turkish, whose son was helping him. His son spoke perhaps upper intermediate English, but was inordinately proud of his folder full of certificates. It was a joke.

The judge was a nice looking middle aged lady who yelled at me for crossing my legs in a court of law. My trial lasted maybe a half hour, and at this point my brain was so fried from fatigue and stress that I kept having deja vu, like at some point I had been in a Turkish court before and been yelled at for crossing my legs.

I was found innocent.

I think I was too tired to be relieved, but the idea of dodging a bullet penetrated the upper layers of my consciousness, without making an emotional impact.

As soon as I walked out of the courtroom two cops grabbed me and said I was “innocent from a judiciary standpoint but guilty administratively.” If anyone can explain to me what that means, I would very much like to know. With the biggest, friendliest smiles they informed me that I “shouldn’t worry! You are free! We’re just going to deport you!”

Oh! Thank god!

It took about another hour or hour and a half to get all the boys out of their handcuffs.

“Two minutes to put the cuffs on, hours to take them off,” I murmured to red shoulder, the man who protected me that awful night. I wish I’d caught his name.

By this point I was hallucinatorily exhausted, and beyond cranky.

“What’s wrong?” my lady cop asked. “You were so cheerful earlier! Are you mad at me?”

“Um, I’m being deported! Nothing personal!”

“But you’re free!”


Finally we were all taken down to the bus to wait some more. My lady cop, who was by this point infatuated with me, allowed me to have a cigarette with her and then a barrage of very uncomfortable questions started. What do I think of Obama? What do I think of Putin? Um, what is the answer that you want from me, that will get me the best possible treatment? I have no idea. They brought over a black shirt with vivid green eyes to translate more effectively.

“So you must be very happy now! You’re free! And you’re going back to America!” he said with appalling cheer.

“Um, I’m not super happy. My life is here, my friends are here. I love Turkey. I’m not actually happy about going back to America at all.”

“Then why did you throw rocks at the police?”

“I didn’t throw rocks at the police.”

“Yes you did.”

“No I certainly didn’t.”

“It’s okay! You’re free now! You can tell me everything! Why did you throw rocks at the police?”

“I didn’t.”

“Your friends say that you threw lots of rocks.”

I looked at the other fellas, puzzled. Those who spoke English shook their heads, subtely, or rolled their eyes.

“I don’t think they did.”

“Yes they did. You should choose your friends more carefully. you’re on video throwing rocks.”

“If someone was on video throwing rocks, it wasn’t me.”

“You can tell me! You’re free!”

It later came out that he hadn’t seen this purported video, he’d just heard about it from someone.

Later he tried to egg me on about American police.

“In your country, if someone threw rocks at the police, the police would shoot them. I know this.”

“If they did, they would lose their badge and probably stand trial, and it would be in all the papers.”

“Why are you defending your police? They shoot people all the time.”

I am in hell. When the police hit me on the head I died, and this man is my eternal punishment.

When he finally marched off with a bunch of his black shirt friends I turned to Boru and said,

“That is a very dangerous man. If you see those green eyes looking at you from behind a riot shield, be very careful. His ignorance is… terrifying.”

He agreed with me, sadly.

Eventually all the boys were loosed to find their own ways home, and I was put in a van with my lady cop and seven or eight other cops. I was told sternly what seat to take. To get to my place I had to clamber over a machine gun. In my broken Turkish I tried to explain that maybe they shouldn’t seat a prisoner next to a machine gun. I mean, I’m not tryin to tell you how to do your jobs or anything, but…

Lady cop started giggling hysterically and demanded to know whose gun it was. Someone in the backseat was like, “Oh! Me!”

We were all set to go. Someone closed the sliding door on the van and the door promptly fell off the track. Twenty minutes later they had it back on.

At this point my nerves were so frayed air hurt.

My condition was not helped by my lady cop asking every ten minutes if I was mad at her, what was wrong with me?

We drove off. Motion! And then promptly doubled back because I had not signed my  deportation papers.

“You forgot,” a plainclothes admonished me, “but we did not.”

How can I forget a piece of procedure I am completely ignorant of?


Back into the courthouse. My deportation was apparently a foregone conclusion, but it still took the better part of an hour to produce the documents I needed to sign. During that hour, lady cop and plainclothes repeatedly congratulated me on my immanent return to America.

I am in hell. When the cops hit me on the head I actually died, and now I can never leave this building. This is what Sartre was talking about.

“You should be happy to go back to America,” plainclothes said at about minute 45 of waiting for documents to materialize.

“My life is here,” I said, slowly and clearly. “My friends are here. I work here. I am active in the community here. MY LIFE IS HERE. YOU ARE MAKING ME LEAVE ON A TECHNICALITY. AND YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?!?! I HAVE NOTHING TO GO HOME TO. I’m sorry, I need to visit the restroom,” I said to lady cop. She took me and I washed my face and felt a little better. When I returned plainclothes seemed subdued, and asked me no more questions.

Yeah- you shut up and think about what you’ve done, what you’ve all done today. Jackass.

Papers were finally produced and signed, and I got back into the broken van and we drove back to Rhitim.




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5 Responses to How Many Turkish Cops Does It Take To Guard 18 Pacifists?

  1. I’m sorry you went through this. Sadly familiar. The cop trying to get you to ‘admit’ you had thrown rocks with pretend testimony from others. The unbelievable power of ignorance unleashed. I can’t imagine suddenly being in the power of all those people who believe in CIA/Jewish conspiracies, the secret plots of America to destroy Turkey’s boron mines–all that shit. Geçmiş olsun. And contact a government official–they may be douchebags but Jesus, it’s important.

  2. Wow. This is so enraging. Ignorance is so dangerous. I’m glad you are safe, but I’m sorry for all that happened.

  3. Alan says:

    . . reading on . . —->

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